Dr Rajesh Lalloo, Chief Technical Officer, OptimusBio
There is currently a global concern regarding disease transmission, ranging from viruses such as COVID-19 to bacteria, fungi, parasites and other disease-causing agents. While there are some very effective chemicals against these agents, many have more recently been shown to have toxic and environmentally damaging effects, and are not recommended for general consumer use. As an example, one of the most popular ingredients in consumer handwashes and disinfectants is Triclosan. The FDA has issued a cautionary against this compound and several others (a full list is available on the FDA website).
One of the most effective methods for the prevention of disease transmission still remains hand washing, which the WHO recently advised as the primary method for prevention of spread of COVID19. Some current opinions indicate that at the virus particle level, this is more effective than sanitization. Key practical advantages include affordability and accessibility of these products, but one should be careful to ensure that these do not contain the FDA cautionary antimicrobial compounds (commonly traded as antibacterial handwashes). It is best to choose a biodegradable product with no toxic ingredients or negative dermatological effects. A downside to handwashing is that it is not always effective due to human habit (the reluctance to make the effort to wash hands frequently) and practical accessibility to hand washing facilities in public places, schools, malls, areas with limited accessibility to clean water, etc. Another disadvantage is that handwashes cannot be practically used to quickly clean items that we frequently touch, such as keyboards, cell phones, food prep areas, etc.
To address these constraints, hand sanitizers and surface sanitizers have become a practical product choice. The convenience of being able to clean and sanitize hands and surfaces anywhere at anytime is most appealing and a valuable method of preventing disease transmission. For this reason, sanitizers should be viewed as a complementary option to hand washing, that addresses some of the constraints, when hand washing is not easily possible. Sanitizing products are mainly alcohol based (generally above 60%) and some do contain environmentally damaging ingredients and the FDA cautionary ingredients, so it is wise to check the ingredients regarding the product you purchase. Alcohol sanitizers are mostly effective but also have some disadvantages in that they can dehydrate the skin, cause skin irritation, can enter the bloodstream with frequent use, can be dangerous to the eyes, risky in the hands of children and are not acceptable to certain cultural groups (e.g. Muslims). Alcohol can also damage some types of surfaces, when used as a surface sanitizer. Other limitations include the high VOC (volatile organic carbon), which means they are environmentally damaging and on the prohibited list of ingredients for green certified products.
OptimusBio has taken all of these attributes into consideration. In line with our company ethos of people well-being and environmental preservation, we have long since developed a handwash as the primary enabler to disease control, containing only non-toxic, biodegradable and environmentally responsible ingredients.
As a complementary product, we have also developed an alcohol-free Hand and Surface Sanitizer that works on both surfaces and hands. Our product does not contain any of the FDA cautionary substances and instead uses natural biodegradable essential oils known to have antimicrobial effects. All ingredients in the product are food safe, readily biodegradable and does not infringe on any cultural preferences, while cleaning, sanitizing and moisturizing in one simple step.
We trust that you find this information useful in making your own product choices based on your own preferences. I have kept this article simple and deliberately left out scientific terminology, to make it easy for everyone to understand. Disinfectants, surgical needs, hospital disease control and sterile work areas are outside the scope of this article, as the article is focused on general consumer hygiene.